DS


Advance Wars: Dual Strike is the first Advance Wars game to arrive on Nintendo\'s DS console, and a direct sequel to the Game Boy Advance games, Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. With the defeat and death of Sturm, Von Bolt has taken over command of Black Hole, and he brought in some new henchmen to help him out. This time he attacks Omega Land, and the native Commanding Officers (COs) of that land as well as some of their allies from Cosmo and Macro Land, from previous games, are there to defend it.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike is a turn based strategy game where each team takes turns trying to eliminate the enemy CO\'s army, or to capture their HQ, which results in an instant win. You can also capture cities, which provide $1000 per turn for each one under your control. There are also bases, from which you can deploy all ground units, as well as airports and ports, where you can buy aircraft or naval units respectively.

Each army consists of many different kinds of units, which traverse a grid-like map of various terrain. The units are broken down into four basic types: Infantry, Vehicle, Air, and Naval units. Infantry (and mech) units are the only types that can capture buildings. And while the distance they can cover is small, they are the only ground unit that can cross mountains or rivers. There are also transport units that can take one (or two depending on the unit) infantry units and quickly move them across the map, while providing some defense. Vehicle units are the mainstay ground units. There are direct attack units like tanks where you have to be adjacent to your opponent, and indirect attack units like artillery which attack ground or sea enemies from a distance. There are also special anti-air units which devastate nearby planes and helicopters. Air units are very effective, and usually worth the cost. One major advantage is that they ignore all terrain in movement, as well as bonuses or penalties. Planes (in contrast to helicopters) even have the advantage of not being able to be targeted by any ground or naval units which are not specifically anti-air. Naval units, while expensive, are powerful in their own right. Most naval battle is with other naval units, but the mighty battleship can target ground units from very far away, and does the most damage of any indirect attack unit. New naval units include the aircraft carrier, which is an indirect anti-air unit, and the black boat, which can heal any unit for two points. These help make the navy much more relevant. Naval units also have a higher defense than other types.

Each turn, all previously deployed units can be moved or attack. Direct combat units can move and attack on the same turn, while indirect combat ones cannot. Any newly deployed units must wait until the next turn before they can take an action, though they counterattack if they are attacked first.

You have available more COs in this game than any previous entry. Almost all of the COs from Advance Wars 1&2 are available, as well as several new ones. Each CO has not only standard strengths and weaknesses in relation to other COs, but they also have CO Powers and Super Powers. As your units deal and receive damage, a star power meter builds up. After a smaller number of stars (though different for each CO) is reached, you can execute the CO Power. Super Powers, which are usually much more powerful than CO Powers (though not always similar) take a full star meter to pull off. These powers can have a substantial effect on the opponent, and can turn the tide of battle. Effects range from having greater offense or defense, gaining additional money or units, or even doing direct damage to an opponent\'s army.

New to this game is the Tag team and Dual Strike systems. Instead of having to live with the strengths and weaknesses of a single CO, for most missions you can have two different COs on your side, and switch between them at the end of any turn. This allows you to compensate for the weaknesses of one CO with the strengths of another, and makes certain combinations rather nasty in the hands of a smart player. For example, Colin has a really powerful strength in that all units cost only 80%, but with an equal weakness of each unit doing only 80% damage. This can be badly abused by buying units with Colin, and switching to, say, Kanbei, whose units cost 120% each but do 120% damage... Nevertheless, it adds a fun additional layer of strategy to keep things interesting.

Dual Strike is what happens when both of your COs reach Super Power at the same time. Upon activating it, the first CO performs their Super Power, and then switches off to his partner, who then performs his. This has the effect of giving you two turns at once, since all units who acted under the first CO can act again under the second. In addition, any units deployed during the first CO\'s turn will be available for action come the second CO\'s go at it. As you can imagine, this can very dramatically turn the tide of a battle.

Another new feature to some maps is the dual front (or dual screen) system. Some maps have a primary and secondary front, where the main battle is ran by the first CO, and the other is ran by the second, with one front being on each screen. Units can be sent from the primary front to the second, since the secondary front can rarely deploy their own units. The victor of the secondary front gets to have their second CO join them, while the other team loses their second CO. They also get an instant double Super Power, which is ready for an instant Dual Strike, another incentive to take the secondary front seriously. It\'s an interesting dynamic that lends an extra element of strategy to some battles.

The main single player game mode is Campaign, where you follow the storyline through to its completion. After completing that, there is a hard campaign as well. You can also play some of the many different maps in War Room. These battles are recorded, so you can always play them again to beat an old score, or so gain more points to spend in the store to unlock more things. New to this game are the Survival modes, which ask you to beat a series of maps with limited money, a limited number of turns, or limited time. Another new mode was a complete surprise to me, called Combat. This reminded me some of the Atari 2600 game of the same name. You spend up to $20000 buying units which you keep with you for the next six or so levels as you attack your opponents in a real-time system where you move your character around on the map, press a button to fire, and try to defeat every unit on the map, or capture their HQ, which is done simply by having your unit sit on it for a countdown to complete. Any unit can capture here. It\'s interesting, and kind of fun, but very different from all other game modes in Advance Wars: Dual Strike.

The multiplayer options are immense. Though there is no internet play, there is everything else. There is Versus mode, where between one and four players, with any combination of CPUs involved, can battle with only one DS – you pass it around in between turns. I think this is just fantastic – I\'ve used it several times. There is also wireless play, which is pretty much the same, except everyone uses their own DSs, though they all require their own game cart. You can also create new maps in the Design room, which you can use in Versus mode or in wireless play. You can send maps between players wirelessly, but with the downside of only being able to store three maps per cartridge. It\'s an unfortunate limitation, but still a good way to play fun maps made between friends. You can play both normal and DS (dual screen) maps wirelessly. There is also the real-time Combat mode mentioned before, which can be played with up to eight players. This can also be played with just one AW:DS cart, with the rest being download play. All in all, the amount of variety here is just staggering; it\'s almost like the developers were allowed to throw in whatever and as much as they wanted to, and they did.

The graphics are pretty decent, and very polished, though they borrowed an awful lot from the GBA Advance Wars games. Most of the sprites, and some other graphics, are straight from earlier entries. The maps, if on the primary front, are rendered in a quasi-3D angular view, which allows you to see more of the map at once. The secondary front is rendered completely in 2D, and other than the increased screen space of the DS, looks largely identical to Advance Wars 2. Then again, there isn\'t a big need for change – everything is clean, colorful, and clearly identifiable. It\'s a strategy game, and special effects are only as much as is needed, with a little bit of 3D flashiness here and there. The previous entries were cartoony and light-hearted in style, and this entry follows along those lines. Not revolutionary, but it didn\'t have to be.

The sound effects and music are also good, and very well polished. Much is borrowed from previous games, as each character and other themes are consistent with those games. Each new character gets its own new theme song as well. I didn\'t find any of them too annoying, and most are quite catchy. They do a good job of capturing the mood and character of what they represent. Sound effects are largely consistent as well, and they all seem to fit just fine. Like the graphics, they tend to be somewhat light-hearted. Weapon effects seem to have an appropriate amount of punch to them. There is also a Sound Room you can unlock to hear every tune from this game at any time.

This game does make some use of the Nintendo DS\' unique features. The game can be controlled completely with the stylus, though I found myself tending to fall back on the d-pad control, though I did play Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising that way, so perhaps it is habit. I will say that using the touchscreen you can occasionally accidently misdirect a movement, though. On Dual Screen battles (a.k.a. dual front) both screens are used for different fronts, and on normal maps the second screen shows unit information, as well as terrain and CO status. It\'s useful, though it does not draw too much attention from the main touchscreen once you know your way around. It makes great use of the wireless features for the multiplayer modes, as mentioned before.

From a Christian perspective, this game does fairly well. There are a few exposed belly buttons (both male and female), but nothing else of concern. The worst language I could find was \'shoot!\' Though there are occasional references to the seriousness of war, for the most part it\'s dealt with rather light-heartedly, which is good and bad. There is war, but no gore of any kind; you mostly see units fly off of the screen and disappear. Given the subject matter, it does very well.

Overall, this is a very good turn based strategy game from a highly regarded series. It also has an incredible amount of replay value, especially for a hand-held game. It would not be hard to spend over 100 hours playing this game, perhaps more. If you like turn based strategy, especially if you enjoyed previous Advance Wars games, this should be very high on your list. While a lot of the game mechanics are very similar to those previous entries, fans would probably feel that\'s not a bad thing, and I can\'t argue with that. There is enough new here that it definitely changes the feel of things, especially with Tag battles, to warrant this sequel. Even though the next Advance Wars game has been released, this one still has a lot of appeal in some ways the other does not, so it should still be considered. I can\'t help but give it the highest of recommendations to any strategy fan.

Appropriateness Score:

Violence 7/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content/Nudity 9/10
Occult/Supernatural 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

Appropriateness Total: 46/50

Game Score:
Game Play 19/20
Graphics 8/10
Sound/Music 9/10
Stability/Polish 5/5
Controls/Interface 5/5

Game Score Total: 46/50

Overall: 92/100
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